Salami: Not Just A Cheap Lunch Meat
For most of my school days, I left the house in the morning with a Mom-made lunch in a brown bag. Mom has always been health-conscious, so my sandwiches were usually cheese (which was thought healthy back then) with prosciutto or mortadella. But now and then, when the stars were aligned just so, Mom would make me a salami sandwich. Big thick slices of crusty Italian bread stacked high with slices of mostly Genova or Napoli salami (with the big peppercorns and chunks of fat) that had been sliced thin enough to see through.
I loved salami then, and I still do. It's part of having the unfortunate sausage gene, which I inherited from my father. I'm a sucker for all kinds of sausage, and that includes salami - a traditional spiced Italian version, usually made from pork (except the kosher ones, of course). The downside of salami is that, unfortunately, it's about as bad for you as food can get.
That doesn't mean you have to swear off the stuff for life, though. The upside is that it's flavorful, so that even a little can make its presence felt. There are also very tasty versions that are lower in fat and calories. Although no amount of lightning will make salami a health food, at least when you occasionally serve it to your family, with one of the light versions you can do so with a clear conscience.
Believe it or not, there are controlled denominations of salami in Italy just like there are for wine. The Italian DOC (controlled origin) salamis are:
- Salame Brianza
- Salame di Varzi
- Salame d'Oca di Mortara
- Salame Mantovano
- Salame Piacentino
- Salame Sant'Angelo di Brolo
- Sopressa Vicentina
Once you taste one of these DOC salamis, you'll understand why the Italian Government has stepped in to ensure that no other cheap knockoff salamis can be sold by infringing on these precious denominations. Keep in mind that not all salamis are made from pork. The Salame d'Oca di Mortara, for example, is produced from duck meat, and there are various other salamis made from goat, venison, mutton, boar, and even horse and donkey meat! However, if you dig into a fine Felino salami, don't worry. It's the name of the town, not cat meat! Meow!
You can think of this delicacy as a gourmet treat, or you can go the more utilitarian way and think of salami as just another kind of sausage:
- Turn your salami into a salad: Combine cubed salami with chickpeas, roasted red pepper, and steamed green beans, and toss in a light vinaigrette.
- Make polenta by sautéeing an onion and a little salami in the pot; then add the water to the salami mixture and stir in the cornmeal.
- Spice up your scrambled eggs by adding salami and chopped parsley.
- Use salami instead of Italian sausage in spaghetti sauce - and add a little baby spinach at the end of the cooking time.
- Add tomato slices and sautéed onions to your salami sandwich.
- Serve an antipasto plate of thinly sliced salami, cured olives, marinated artichokes, and grilled or roasted vegetables.
Or just put it between two slices of bread and send your kid off to school - but wait until the stars are aligned.